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Microsoft Kills Windows 7 Beta

The software maker ends trial availability of its next operating system.
Microsoft on Tuesday officially ended the download program for the trial version of the forthcoming Windows 7 operating system.




Windows 7 screen shot
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"Special thanks to everyone who is beta testing Windows 7," wrote Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's in-house Windows blogger, in a post Monday that warned of the shutoff.

There are a couple of loopholes, however. Users who started to download the OS before that date will have until Feb. 12 to complete the process. Also, Microsoft will continue to distribute product keys beyond Feb. 12 to users who have previously downloaded Windows 7 Beta but have yet to obtain a key.

Perhaps because of Vista's unpopularity, computer users have been downloading Windows 7 Beta in droves. Microsoft dropped limits on the number of available copies of the software after a crush of download requests for the new operating system brought the company's servers to a halt during the first weekend of availability earlier this month.

Windows 7 offers numerous new features, including native support for touch-screen interfaces and more than 20 hotkey combinations designed to simplify use.

Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users and businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.

Dissatisfaction with Vista has allowed Apple to gain share against Microsoft in the computer operating system market in recent months. Windows' market share in November fell below 90% for the first time in years while Mac OS is now flirting with the 10% mark, according to market watcher Net Applications.

It's all taking a toll on Microsoft's bottom line. The company recently said second-quarter profits tumbled 11%. It also announced a restructuring plan that will see it lay off 5,000 full-time employees and an additional 5,000 contract workers.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on overhauling Microsoft. Download the report here (registration required).